As you might know, a lot of Roleplaying games involve facing off against antagonists. Bad folks who are the source of the party’s troubles – whether directly trying to kill the PCs, or indirectly by trying to… overthrow the king or something.
The real problem is, they don’t get a lot of screen time. They occasionally get some build up as the party encounters their servants, but most of the time, when they show up – the party surrounds them and kills them in a few short rounds, not learning who they are or why they’re doing what they’re doing. No matter how good their backup plan is.
So, how do you make villians come back for a second round? And more importantly, how do you do so without feeling like you’re screwing the party over with a deux-ex-machina?
Well, having them be actually part of encounters against their minions is one way, and having them become increasingly present in the background of the campaign is another.
But even better is finding a way to have the villian confront the party in a way where taking the villain out is more trouble than letting him go.
If you don’t like the combat, stay out of the dungeon
This isn’t something every villain can do, but encountering the party in a neutral public location is an excellent way to avoid bloodshed. As bloodthirsty as many PCs are, they also have a sense of self-preservation that extends out to not getting themselves arrested for obvious murder.
As soon as the party knows who the antagonist of their adventure is, or vice-versa, they should start seeking them out in civilized places. Town squares, royal balls, or at their favorite merchant. These places provide a huge safety net for the villain, because the moment the party starts drawing their swords, casting their spells and charging into battle, they become the criminals.
And even if the party is the one who calls the guards, unless they already have proof of the villain’s wrongdoing they’re just making a scene. And the guards will be keeping a much closer eye on them in the future.